Sher­man could switch to safety to ex­tend ca­reer

San Francisco Chronicle - - SPORTS - By Eric Branch Eric Branch is a San Fran­cisco Chron­i­cle staff writer. Email: [email protected]­i­ Twit­ter: @Eric_Branch

Charles Wood­son.

Rod Wood­son.

Ae­neas Wil­liams.

Richard Sher­man?

On Thurs­day, the 49ers’ cor­ner­back dis­cussed his plan for the rest of his ca­reer, and it in­cluded a po­ten­tial tran­si­tion from his cur­rent po­si­tion to safety. It’s the same late­ca­reer move made by Wood­son, Wood­son and Wil­liams, all of whom are in the Pro Foot­ball Hall of Fame.

“It’s def­i­nitely some­thing that I’ve looked at,” Sher­man said. “And some­thing that I’ve talked with (Charles Wood­son) about.”

The shift to safety, a po­si­tion that doesn’t re­quire the same quick­ness, helped those dec­o­rated cor­ners ex­tend their ca­reers: Charles Wood­son was 39 in his fi­nal sea­son, Rod Wood­son was 38 and Wil­liams was 36.

How­ever, Sher­man, 30, doesn’t an­tic­i­pate repli­cat­ing that as­pect of their jour­neys.

“I think 35 is prob­a­bly my cut­off,” Sher­man said. “I don’t think I want to play … they’d have a hard time get­ting me out of bed at 35 to go play. I think I’ve got four or five more (years) in me.

“At some point, ev­ery­body makes a tran­si­tion to safety if you’re smart enough to play that game. And I’ll prob­a­bly do that in a cou­ple of years — or what­ever the team needs.”

Cor­ner­backs typ­i­cally need to have strong in­stincts, in­tel­li­gence and tack­ling abil­ity to move to safety, all of which Sher­man pos­sesses. In the 49ers’ 4-3 de­fense, how­ever, Sher­man might not have the nec­es­sary speed to play free safety. And he might not have the size (6-foot-3, 195 pounds) to play strong safety, which lines up closer to the line of scrim­mage.

Of course, this could be a moot point. Sher­man agreed when a re­porter sug­gested 2021 might be a log­i­cal sea­son to move to safety. Sher­man is in the first sea­son of a three­year con­tract that runs through 2020.

The way Sher­man ex­plained it, his in­ter­est in pos­si­bly mov­ing to safety isn’t about com­pen­sat­ing for de­clin­ing skills. In­stead, it would be a way to get more in­volved in the lat­ter part of a po­ten­tial Hall of Fame ca­reer in which quar­ter­backs have of­ten avoided him for long stretches.

At free safety, “you can see the whole field — you get to make an im­pact,” Sher­man said. “You al­ways see where the ball goes. And at cor­ner, I’ve had games where I haven’t got­ten a look or thrown at.

“At safety, you can see ex­actly where the ball goes. You can make an im­pact. You can find a way. You can get in on ev­ery tackle be­cause you’re in the cen­ter of ev­ery­thing, kind of like a (mid­dle line­backer). But it’s some­thing that I’m go­ing to con­sider later in my ca­reer and hope­fully, I’ll be just as good there.”

The move cer­tainly isn’t im­mi­nent, given Sher­man’s de­but sea­son with the 49ers, who count Sher­man as their only re­li­able starter at cor­ner­back this sea­son.

The 49ers have in­di­cated they plan to re­tain Sher­man for 2019. And based on Sher­man’s com­ments Thurs­day about his health, he could be even bet­ter next sea­son.

Sher­man, who has had pro­ce­dures on both Achilles in the past 13 months, has played in five straight games since miss­ing two of four games with calf and heel is­sues tied to one of his surg­eries. Sher­man hasn’t been listed on the in­jury re­port since Oct. 31.

“I’ve been fight­ing it all sea­son, but prob­a­bly over the last three, four weeks it’s been (an) as­tro­nom­i­cal” im­prove­ment, Sher­man said. “It just felt like my body has fi­nally had enough time to re­set and take an­other step. … It took a while for my body to get back to where it needed to be, but now it is, fi­nally.”

Elaine Thomp­son / As­so­ci­ated Press

Cor­ner­back Richard Sher­man might con­sider a move to safety later in his ca­reer.

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